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Marathon for MPs over budget bill

Efforts by opposition parties to amend the Conservative government's latest omnibus budget bill culminated with around six hours of voting Tuesday.

Bill C-45 rings in at over 400 pages and like its predecessors makes changes to a myriad of rules and regulations, some that were explicitly in the Conservatives' last budget and some that weren't.

As the final group of amendments proposed by the opposition went to a vote late Tuesday night, the NDP began to chant "2015," a reference to the next federal election, which is when they say the Harper government will be held accountable for the bill.

"Conservatives may have destroyed much tonight but Canadians will ultimately win!," tweeted NDP MP Peter Julian.

The Conservative majority government allowed none of the amendments to pass.

"And the winner is — the economy, jobs and long-term prosperity," tweeted Tory MP Laurie Hawn seconds after the vote concluded.

"Some will feel free to disagree, that's okay."

Among those who disagree with several measures in the bill are some First Nations chiefs.

They are frustrated with what they say is a lack of consultation over measures in the bill and had attempted earlier Tuesday to get in the chamber of the House of Commons.

They spoke briefly with Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver, saying they were there to serve notice to government they wouldn't tolerate being ignored any longer.

When Oliver left, the chiefs tried to force their way in but were held back by security.

Among the provisions in Bill C-45 are an extension of a hiring credit for small businesses, changes to land management on aboriginal reserves, pay raises for judges and a law allowing for the creation of a new bridge between Windsor, Ont., and Detroit.

The most contentious changes are those to the Navigable Waters Protection Act, which remove thousands of lakes and streams from federal protection under that law.

Opposition parties say that removes environmental oversight of these waterways and the manner in which the law will continue to be applied is haphazard.

"Important lakes and rivers in my region are being stripped of protection," said New Democrat MP Glen Thibeault, who represents Sudbury, Ont.

"Meanwhile, Muskoka millionaires' playgrounds are protected while lakes that supply drinking water are not. Will no Conservative stand up for our natural heritage and vote against this cherry-picking of protected lakes?"

The Conservatives said the changes streamline regulation and remove red tape that held up projects along waterways under the guise that they would impede navigation.

The Canadian Press


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